Volume 29 1920 > Volume 29, No. 116 > Uvea and Futuna Islands, p 215-217
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- 215

IN the “Bulletin de la Société Neu Chateloise de Géographie,” Vol. XXVIII., 1919, is to be found an excellent article on the above two islands, by Dr. M. Viala, who passed four years there as Resident on behalf of France, under protectorate of which country the islands were from 1888, and were finally annexed to France in 1913.

In the first volume of our “Journal,” at pages 33 and 127 will be found accounts of Futuna and Uvea islands derived from three works by the early missionaries to those islands, in which many of the customs, beliefs, etc., of the islanders are given at considerable length.

Dr. Viala's account, while embracing both islands, treats more particularly of Uvea, or Wallis Island, situated about 120 miles north-east of Futuna, and lying to the north-east of Fiji and west of Samoa Both islands were well-known traditionally to the Rarotongans, and it is stated in the traditions of the latter people, that while dwelling in the eastern, or Lau Group, of Fiji, Uvea (or, as they call it Uea) was conquered by them, somewhere about the forth or sixth century. Dr. Viala thinks that the islands were uninhabited prior to the thirteenth century, “an epoch when a party of Maoris of New Zealand arrived and settled there. According to the native traditions these Maoris found no inhabitants either on Uvea or Futuna. They established themselves on Futuna, staying but a short time on Uvea, which island they abandoned to the Tongans. It was not until many years afterwards that others arriving from Tonga-tapu, returned to Uvea and finally settled there.” The author then shows that the main divisions of the island bear the same names as those of Tonga-tapu, which is quite true; but some of the same names are found in Niuē Island, and, as a matter of fact a large number of place-names on Uvea and Futuna are identical with those of Niuē, so much is this the case, that taken in conjunction with other matters it seems to show that the Niuē, Uvea and Futuna people all belong to the same branch of the Polynesians.

The statement that the islands were only settled for the first time in the thirteenth century is not confirmed by the histories of other branches of the race, and it is suggested that this statement should rather read that Uvea and Fntuna received accessions to their population at that time. The thirteenth century was evidently a time of great unrest in Polynesia, and these hardy voyagers were passing from east to west, from west to east, to north and south during that - 216 century as well as before and after it. And it appears from Maori and Rarotongan traditions (the histories of the branch we call for convenience the Tonga-fiti), that more than one expedition left their then homes in the Lau and Samoan groups for the west, evidently in search of fresh lands to occupy. It is also quite possible that one or more migration from New Zealand did settle at Uvea. For instance we do not know where the chief Tu-moana went to when he left the northern peninsula of New Zealand with his people, though it is stated he went to Hawaiki, which may equally mean Hawaiki-runga (or eastern Polynesia) or Hawaiki-raro (the western Pacific, in which name is included all Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, and the adjacent islands of Uvea and Futuna). Tu-moana, there is reason for thinking, was a member of the Tangata-whenua people, i.e., of those who occupied New Zealand prior to the times of the great migration of the fourteenth century—quite probably a descendent of or member of the western Pacific migration dating prior to the times of Toi-te-huatahi. If this should turn out to be right, then we have here a reason why he might have directed his course to the western Hawaiki, because the Tangata-whenua evidently came to New Zealand from that quarter, and, although they are said to have been blown off their coasts by gales of wind, and made the west coast of New Zealand inadvertently, as it were, we cannot neglect the northern tradition that one or more of the early migrations was led to the discovery of New Zealand by the flight of the kuaka, or godwit bird. This migrant in its annual flight to New Zealand from Siberia passes not far from Uvea and Futuna, and the suggestion is, that Tu-moana (or some other Tangata-whenua navigator) followed the flight of these birds, which he would know of traditionally, on his way to Hawaiki-raro.

Tu-moana is, however, by no means the only voyager who has sailed from the coasts of New Zealand and never been heard of since, and any one of these might have been the leader of a party that settled in Uvea. For instance there is Tama-ahua, who departed from the Taranaki coast with his people in the “Roua-waewae” (or as another account says, “Moana-waewae”) canoe and has not since been heard of. This occurred in the thirteenth century. 1

Another possible migration to Uvea and Futuna by ancestors of the Maori, may have been that mentioned in the narrative of the voyage of the “Aotea Canoe,” “J.P.S.,” Vol. IX., p. 213, where several canoes are recorded as leaving Samoa for the west, and were never heard of again (by the crew of “Aotea”). That these old Maori navigators were in the habit of visiting the western islands during their lengthy sojourn in Fiji and Samoa, is proved again by a reference in an ancient chant preserved by Mr. Hare Hongi, in - 217 which the name of Eremanga Island of the New Hebrides Group is mentioned.

Although the above notes prove nothing positively, they at least show that Dr. Viala's statement is not devoid of probability, excepting as to the possible date of the first occupation of Uvea and Futuna.

Dr. Viala goes on to show that the influence of Tonga on these islands has been very great, and that they have been subject to invasion by the Tongans from ancient times. This is born out by Tongan traditions; indeed, there is a tradition in Tonga-tapu that the immense stones that form the Haamonga trilithon on that island were brought from Uvea.

The author says (on page 222), “It is absolutely certain that the currents of emigration from one archipelago to another have been originally extremely frequent in the Pacific, and have left their traces still manifest. It is thus that the island of Hawaii in the north bears the same name as Savaii of Samoa, and also that of Hapai (Haabai) of the Tonga Group.” But while the two former names are certainly identical, Haabai of Tonga has quite a different meaning to the others. The learned Doctor might have quoted very many more instances of the common name Hawaiki—at least a dozen—of which the Rarotongan name for New Zealand is one, i.e., Avaiki-tautau.

We must not forget that the people of Rakahanga Island, lying to the north of Rarotonga, also believe that a portion of their people originated from a migration hailing from New Zealand.

The article goes on to describe the form of government and administration in ancient times, and on page 227 tells us that the king (ariki) was assisted by ministers, exactly as was formerly the case in Niuē Island, which we note as an additional connection of the Uvea people with Niuē. The Uveans have also a chief's language, as in Samoa, Tonga and Niuē.

There is much in Dr. Viala's account of these islands one would like to reproduce here; but the chief reason we had in calling attention to the article was to show that the author's statement to the effect that these islands were settled by Maoris (though perhaps not the original inhabitants) is quite possible—nay probable.

1   See “Taranaki Coast,” p. 158; also in “Te Kauwae-raro,” p. 135.